Timberline High School did what it could to slow Eastside Catholic. Sometimes, the Blazers even halted the two-time defending Class 3A state champions.
But, only for a moment.
Riding three quick scores in the first six minutes of the second half on Friday night at South Sound Stadium, the second-ranked Crusaders picked apart Timberline, and its season, on the way to a 39-21 win.
For the fifth straight season, Eastside Catholic (10-1) advanced to the 3A state quarterfinals — it’s played in the state championship game the past four, and beat Bellevue the past two for the title.
Timberline coach Mike Spears knew all of that. He knew the caliber of program that was coming to visit, and his plan was to try to stick with the Crusaders as long as possible.
The Blazers did that, rallying from an early deficit to enter the break tied at 21-21. But as long as Timberline did hang around, it wasn’t quite long enough.
“We felt we played a really good half, and we had them somewhat figured out,” Spears said. “Our guys recognized they can play with them, that they’re just high school guys, they’re not supermen.”
Though, on the Crusaders’ first possession, it appeared they might be. Just two plays in, Ze’Shaun Lewis found Chris Lefau in the flat, and Lefau weaved through several defenders for a 23-yard touchdown.
But Timberline found a seemingly foolproof response on the following possession — perhaps the answer to the Crusaders’ fast-paced offense is to just keep the ball out of their hands.
The Blazers chewed up more than six minutes, and Trenton Horn capped a long drive with a 1-yard quarterback keeper to even it at 7-7.
Then, after forcing two Eastside Catholic punts, the Blazers took their only lead when Jamin Faalogo squeezed through two defenders, picked off Lewis’ pass, and charged 64 yards for a touchdown.
“In the first half, they opened up to adversity really well,” Eastside Catholic defensive back Malik Putney said of Timberline. “They came out with some fire. We’re been through situations in the the past where we’ve got to fight and dig ourselves out of a hole.”
The Crusaders did answer quickly. Tyler Folkes — who led Eastside Catholic with 26 carries for 147 yards and two touchdowns — stamped a long drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Then, Jonathan Kvech intercepted Timberline quarterback Trenton Horn three plays later, and scampered in for a 34-yard score.
But Horn — who finished 11 of 23 passing for 136 yards and two rushing touchdowns — tied the game for the Blazers on another long drive, this time with a 2-yard quarterback keeper.
But, the game unraveled for the Blazers after that.
“We had a bad five-minute stretch in the third quarter. … We lost our composure for five minutes, and that’s all it takes against a good team like that,” Spears said.
Within the first six minutes, Eastside Catholic put up 16 points. Folkes rushed for a 13-yard touchdown. Then the Crusaders forced a safety. Then Putney returned a kickoff for 67 yards.
Another safety against Timberline in the fourth quarter gave the Crusaders their final score.
“I think in the first half, we did what we've doing all year long, kind of puttering along and didn't really put it together and weren't clicking,” Eastside Catholic coach Jeremy Thielbahr said. “Then, in that third quarter, we felt great. That was the best we played, really, all year almost.
“This is a great Timberline team. We knew it was going to be a battle. We knew it would come down the little things.”
The little things like several penalties, the two safeties, and turnovers. All of those led to a scoreless second half for the Blazers (8-3), who have been knocked out of the first round of the state playoffs in their last five appearances.
“They’re a good team,” Spears said. “We would get something going, and there would be some type of penalty or movement. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times.”
Despite forcing two turnovers late in the second half, Timberline couldn’t capitalize, advancing into Eastside Catholic’s territory just once in the second half.
“This was a tough ballgame for us, because we’re not familiar with Timberline at all and they’re not familiar with us,” Thielbahr said. “They came out and played great. Hats off to them. That was a good, solid win on the road for us.”
Spears can take some consolation from that.
“Nobody had any quit,” he said. “We played until the last minute. … I told them it was going to be a dog fight, and we’ve got to play until the final zeroes on the scoreboard. They did that.”
NO. 2 EASTSIDE CATHOLIC
NO. 10 TIMBERLINE
EC – Chris Lefau 23 pass from Ze’Shaun Lewis (Scott Lees kick)
T – Trenton Horn 1 run (Madison Douglas kick)
T – Jamin Faalogo 64 interception return (kick failed)
EC – Tyler Folkes 4 run (Lees kick)
EC – Jonathan Kvech 34 interception return (Lees kick)
T – Horn 2 run (Anthony Hathaway run)
EC – Folkes 13 run (Lees kick)
EC – Safety
EC – Malik Putney 67 kickoff return (Lees kick)
EC – Safety